Earlier this month I was speaking to a group of agency owners and the topic of specialization came up, at least when it comes to business development. This elicited a comment from one of the agency owners in the audience. They had tried this specialist strategy and it didn’t work. In fact, it had the opposite effect — they couldn’t find enough new business opportunities to sustain the firm. What did I have to say to that?
To be sure, I see enormous benefits to specializing when it comes to new business, but it’s not without its risks, as this agency owner pointed out. This month, I offer some hedges against that risk.
Going after new business puts you in a vulnerable position. There’s always a risk that you’ll be unable to persuade the other party to buy what you’re selling.
We don’t like feeling vulnerable or being rejected. In fact, it’s deeper than dislike. It’s straight-up fear. To avoid the fear, we might convince ourselves to stay in our safe place and keep doing whatever it is we’ve been doing (or not doing), no matter how unsatisfying or unproductive it is.
The devil you know…
Until a crisis shakes us out of complacency and forces us to act. And then we scramble to fix the crisis, dipping back into our network or lowering our price because we need a win.
What would change for your agency if you could take fear out of the equation?
Your agency deserves to be noticed!
But you need to do your part too. You’re responsible for making it as easy as possible for your best customers to find you. A strong strategic positioning is one of the best ways to differentiate yourself.
Landing on the right positioning for your agency can be emotional, soul-searching work, and emotion tends to cloud our judgment and compromise our objectivity.
What if you had a way to remove emotion from the equation? What if you had an equation to lead you to a clear articulation of your value?
Is 2018 the year you regain control over your agency’s new business destiny?
Have you ever said to yourself in the final weeks of December, “Wow, the advertising business got a whole lot easier this year!”?
I didn’t think so.
We often see the mounting complexity, shrinking budgets, and unexpected competitors more clearly than we see the opportunities.
But the opportunities are always there. Sometimes they’re more evident when we stop reacting for a moment and observe what’s around us. And this is a great time of year to do just that.
As we slide down the back end of December, here’s what I think did the most to shape the agency new business in 2017 and where opportunities may lie in 2018.
A couple of weeks ago I got to speak at The Drum’s Pitch Perfect conference, a one-day event devoted to helping ad agencies sharpen their new business skills.
There was some great content presented, and one of the best sessions featured four client-side marketers who graciously agreed to expose their underbellies to us. It’s always a lucky opportunity when we agency folk can ask clients candid questions about what we’re doing right and what we could do better.
In this case, I learned some new things, but mostly I was struck by how little things seem to change. Clients are trying just as hard as we are to stay on top of the constantly-shifting sands of marketing, not to mention the demands of their jobs.
Agencies are perfectly positioned to be a source of a help. So why do they often end up being more of a hindrance?
The other day I got a phone call that made my week.
One of my clients, the CEO of a small ad agency, called to tell me that the agency’s positioning strategy, a strategy that I first suggested more than three years ago and have encouraged (and sometimes cajoled) him to embrace ever since, just won him a major piece of business.
It was gratifying to me, of course, because it validated my business! But I was happier for him.
Committing to that positioning strategy had been a psychological hurdle. It fit like a Savile Row suit, but it required him to put a stake in the ground, and that meant potentially saying “no” to revenue if it meant working with the wrong kinds of clients.
It’s a very emotional decision for some agency owners, and emotion tends to cloud our judgment and compromise our objectivity.
But what if you had a way to test your positioning that puts emotion to the side? Read more.
Effective salespeople know that a good story is the fastest route between them and winning new business.
This is especially true for ad agencies. Advertising is a craft that relies on abstract thought processes that lead to inspirational ideas like “Just do it.” The problem is, abstract ideas are difficult to describe and even more difficult to value. That’s why it’s so easy to succumb to meaningless, anemic phrases like “fully integrated,” “digital-first” and “consumer at the core” when trying to describe what you do to a prospective client.
Stories, on the other hand, make the intangible tangible. Discover how this technique, as old as humanity itself, is one of the easiest ways to win new business.
See the video
Our complex marketing ecosystem has resulted in a Cheesecake Factory menu of specialist agencies filling every marketing niche imaginable.
As these specialist agencies seek new growth, they’re turning to other agencies.
For example, a social media agency (let’s call it the Selling Agency) might partner with a digital agency (the Customer Agency) to fill a gap in the Customer Agency’s services. The Customer Agency can offer its client what it needs, the Selling Agency gets exposure to more potential clients on the other agency’s roster, and both make money. Hooray!
But there’s a big downside. The Selling Agency will never have as much influence over the client relationship as the Customer Agency will.
That leads to all sorts of hazards. In this post, I’ll tell what those hazards are and give you strategies you can use throughout the sales cycle to hedge against them.
When it comes to pitching for new business, agencies are so accommodating!
They put in late nights and give up holiday weekends. They divert their best teams from paying clients to do spec work. They put up with terrible briefs and minimal information.
Are they too willing to play on the client’s terms for the chance to compete for
I’ve identified four points in the pitch process where agencies should set their own terms, both for the sake of the future client relationship and their ability to pursue new business from other clients.
Whether truth or myth, the story goes that the famous architect Philip Johnson once answered an RFP with the shortest response possible.
His winning proposal simply said, "I'll do it."
Too bad we all can't rely on this simple approach to writing proposals that win new business. But, you can do more to make your investment in time and effort pay off by turning your proposals into the strategic selling tools they're meant to be.
It’s January, a time to stride forth into the new year and activate the plans you've made to grow your ad agency – dust off that prospecting list, revive the agency’s blog, hire a biz dev whiz to steer the efforts.
How’s that going so far?
We're as quick to break resolutions as we are to make them. Psychologists call this “false hope syndrome,” which means our resolutions are unrealistic and out of alignment with our internal view of ourselves.
What's the secret to counteracting this natural tendency?
For a moment, put aside your ambitious plans for 2017 and take a critical look at your team (including yourself) and what it's best equipped to do. See if your agency matches one of these five types. It could unlock the secret to winning more new business this year.
This year I was both a first-time speaker and a first-time attendee at INBOUND, a
four-day extravaganza dedicated to inbound marketing in all its forms. Not that anyone was keeping score, but I'm pretty sure I absorbed way more information
than I imparted.
Thinking about the big themes that were communicated throughout the event, the one I heard most consistently was this: the line that used to separates sales and marketing no longer exists.
Why does that matter to your ad agency? Because it matters a lot to your clients and prospects - they want to work with agencies that not only understand their challenges but have a clue how to address them.
Start by taking a walk in another man's shoes - it might even put you in a position to win more new business yourself.